After World War II, Americans were promised that pretty soon everything would be operated by push-button. Push-button cars, push-button schools — and a push-button for nearly every moving thing in your futuristic home.
In a 1950 article for the Associated Press, editor David G. Bareuther wrote about the future of American homes. Skyscrapers might "stage a comeback" but every home would have the push-button and voice-activated conveniences, like push-button window controls and push-button coffee makers.
From a 1950 article from the Associated Press:
Current trends are already sketching blueprints of what will be called modern in homes, apartments and office buildings at the end of this century. Signs point to vertical cities and flying suburbs – little airport communities 100 miles and more from skyscraper clusters rising in the midst of acres of parks and playgrounds.
People will live in houses so automatic that push-buttons will be replaced by fingertip and even voice controls. Some people today can push a button to close a window – another to start coffee in the kitchen. Tomorrow such chores will be done by the warmth of your fingertip, as elevators are summoned now in some of the newest office buildings – or by a mere whisper in the intercom phone.
Rigid zoning in small towns will insure yards, gardens and trees for each house, where window walls will slip down in slots to merge outdoors with indoors in favorable weather. City dwellers will bask on individual balconies high above the treetops of parks surrounding elevator apartment houses. All homes will have temperatures maintained at constant comfortable levels the year-round for human efficiency. Heat will be tapped from the bowels of the earth and refrigeration will cool houses in the same process.
Skyscrapers will stage a comeback because of the demand for premium space afforded by light and airy tower floors. But few office buildings will exceed 50 stories or so – the economic height created by elevator and utilities cores.
Improved lightweight building materials will be readily prefabricated to make the construction or replacement of homes or skyscrapers almost as flexible as changes in partitions in existing office buildings.
We're surrounded by push-buttons. But middle class America is still waiting for many of the conveniences we were promised to become mainstream. Nest (now owned by Google) certainly looks like it's the closest to getting us there. But we'll just have to wait and see.
Image: Push-button home from the December 1950 issue of Popular Mechanics